Sunday, May 11, 2008
Happy Mother's Day!
It's our day, ladies! Our Day of Appreciation for the hardest, messiest job you never get to go home from. The pay is lousy (I know, I know, the "you're pretty"s and wet, sloppy kisses should be payment enough, but it doesn't work down at the Pedicure Palace. I've tried.), the hours are long, your bosses are demanding, there is far too much sacrifice involved and sometimes it seems that no one else sees the monumental-ness of what you're doing.
We're making people!
Whenever I think of that, it's just astounding. I am making people. People who will hopefully grow up to do great things, or build a better society, or just be amazing individuals who love and are loved.
I am laying the foundation for the future. It may not seem like it when I'm wiping urine off of the floors and yelling at people, but it's just another brick in the wall.
It's one of those hard, sucky jobs that you have to wait a long time to get paid on. You'll get small payments here and there, the big hugs, the handmade cards, but the final payment, seeing what came of all your hard work, will be worth the wait.
In most cases.
I know I've posted this before, but it's very moving and I feel like posting it again and SOME of you deadbeats haven't caught up on every word I've ever written (or copy and pasted, I can't take the credit for this one unfortunately), so here it is again:
It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, 'Can't you see I'm on the phone?' Obviously not. No one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I'm invisible.
Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this? Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, 'What time is it?' I'm a satellite guide to answer, 'What number is the Disney Channel?' I'm a car to order, 'Right around 5:30, please.'
I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated, but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She's going, she's going, she's gone!
One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the
return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous
trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to
compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of- style dress; it was the only thing I could find that was clean. My unwashed hair was pulled up in a banana clip and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, 'I brought you this.' It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription: 'To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.'
In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.
A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, 'Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it. And the workman replied, 'Because God sees.'
I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, 'I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become.'
At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride. I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.
When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, 'My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.' That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, 'You're gonna love it there.'"
I have no idea who wrote that or where I originally found it (sorry I can't give them credit) but it really meant a lot to me the first time I read it and gave me a different perspective on Motherhood, and my role as a cathedral builder. It's a big job.
So enjoy your day! Demand some YOU time. Go take a bath, or a nap. Go get a pedicure, BUDGET BE DAMNED. You deserve it, you're doing a great job. You'll sacrifice more tomorrow.
Edited to add: There's a paragraph where the formatting is all wonky, but you know what? It's Mother's Day! I'm too tired from building these cathedrals to take the time to fix it. So let's just be wild and crazy and leave it like that. And I'm not going to let it bother me. I'm not. Starting now...